Report of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee considered the Staffordshire Safeguarding Children’s Board Annual Report 2020/21. The Report had a focus on the differences that had been made rather than a description of activities undertaken. This annual report detailed the impact of Covid19 on children and young people in Staffordshire, the consequent changes to services and the challenges this brought. These included:
· a reduced opportunity for face to face meetings and concerns that potentially this would prevent early signs of neglect being identified. However, Early Help referrals overall had increased which may signify that agencies were now more adept at spotting the early signs;
· the emotional impact of partners being unable to attend births and the development of Maternity Voices Partnership champions;
· the loss of face to face education and the resultant impact on wellbeing of children and young people, particularly where on-line learning was not accessible to them;
· face to face training opportunities reduced, however on-line provision had been provided and proved very successful; and
· significant delays in judicial services.
Members heard that at the beginning of the pandemic work was quickly undertaken to identify all vulnerable children and young people. Vulnerable children were entitled to attend school along with key worker children. Where vulnerable children did not attend school face to face visits were arranged to ensure these children remained safe.
Although Early Help referrals were briefly suspended at the beginning of the pandemic, as this was not a statutory service and staff capacity had been a concern, these were quickly re-instated after a short period.
The social workers in school project, which is part of a national pilot, had proved to be very useful in supporting vulnerable young people to stay in school. This work was also supported by the District Improvement Hubs in avoiding young people being excluded.
The Board would be focusing on two priorities during 2021/22, neglect and exploitation, and Members heard details of the rationale and anticipated work around these priorities.
Part of the work of the SSCB included ensuring learning was identified, improvements embedded at both individual and multi-agency levels, as well as an alertness to emerging risks and understanding systemic issues which policy and practice changes would address. To implement and monitor these a structure of five sub-groups were established on:
· scrutiny and assurance
· child safeguarding practice review
· joint child death overview
· review of restraint
· learning in practice
Members received details of the work of these sub-groups and were pleased to note that they had delegated powers to deliver against their specific responsibilities.
On querying the broader collecting of intelligence around low-level neglect, and particularly for under 1year olds, Members heard that Staffordshire had made significant investment in this area over the last 4/5 years, particularly in training front line practitioners and awareness raising. Hearing the voice of the under 1s was a challenge, however in this new performance year a thematic review had been commissioned to look at this issue.
Concerns were shared around safeguarding of children who either attended unregistered schools or who were home educated. Staffordshire had invested in staffing of its Elective Home Education (EHE) Service to help support the increasing number of home educated young people. Although the Government had suggested they intended to introduce a statutory register for home educated young people, they had not done so yet.
RESOLVED: That the Annual Report be received and the work undertaken and differences made be welcomed.